Jump to Yerada Lij Today – blue-taxi driver story
Jump to Yerada Lij Long Ago – tales of Emperor Menelik II
Meaning of Yerada Lij
Famous for hats, Ethiopia’s Emperor Menelik II was a yerada lij. In Ethiopia, he is called Negus Menelik. He reigned during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. In leading Ethiopia, he took on massive responsibility. However, he was modest and down-to-earth and cared about the ordinary people. He often wore a peasant-style hat. Click here to view a photo of Emperor Menelik II.
Yerada lij is Amharic. Ethiopia has more than 80 Ethiopian languages. Amharic is her national language.
Yerada lij is also city-slicker slang – the vernacular of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. It can be written as ye arada lij.
2. Yerada Lij Today
Yerada Lij on Wheels
Yerada lij are everywhere. They perform any work. Men & women can be smart, self-sufficient & helpful.
Up & Not Away
In 2017, we missed our flight home to Australia. It was the ATMs. Arriving early at Bole International Airport, we withdrew cash to help out family. Every machine refused to work. We went inside a bank. The queue was so long that we ran late. At Check In there was no queue at all: Emirates had closed the counter early. Read about the airport: click here.
Re-booking had to be done in another part of Addis Ababa, so we caught a taxi. The old blue Lada was kept running solely on the smartness of its self-sufficient driver. Before we knew it, he was unloading our bags at the airline building.
Our cabby must have known the way well: perhaps many other travellers had been caught out. Was it the honey wine? Could it have been the people-watching opportunities?
We climbed five storeys to the airline ticketing office. There, a ticketing officer told us, ‘All flights home are fully booked for two days.’ We asked to telephone loved ones in Australia to warn them of our delayed return: They were taking time off work to host us at a community event which we would miss. The answer was, ‘No.’
Blue-Taxi Driver Hero
From behind, came a soft voice. It was the taxi driver. He handed us a bag, saying, ‘This is yours.’ Though it held all our documents and treasures, we had not had time to miss it.
‘You drove all the way back to give us this? Have you any idea what’s in it?’
‘It is not for me to know.’
‘Let us pay for your fuel and lost fares.’
The driver shook his head, unmovable in his support of our helplessness.
Back downstairs, we waved goodbye as he turned his vehicle in the tight parking lot. On the driver’s side was large lettering: MOTHER MARIYAN GUIDES ME. Petrol fuelled the taxi. Materialism did not drive the yerada lij.
Overlooked Yerada Lij
Do you hear positive news about Ethiopia? How about her successful treatment of COVID-19? View the COVID tracker: click here. While the world closes its borders to the desperate, Ethiopia gives asylum to between 5.2 million refugees. In 2019, UNHCR wrote, ‘Ethiopia is the one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in Africa.’ See the report: click here.
Many do not call it by any name. The gelada monkey is found only in Ethiopia. View a documentary about it: click here. Does it mention the beautiful animal’s homeland by name? The gelada comes from Ethiopia. Why say, ‘east Africa’? To view a map that proves there is no such country, click here.
For those who can only say ‘east Africa’, here is pronunciation practice of Ethiopia’s name.
- E… E… (Go on. You can do it!)
East… (No, not that.)
- Eth… (That is the way.)
- yoh-puh-yuh – Ethiopia!
Long ago, Ethiopia had an additional name: Abyssinia. It meant ‘land of the fathers’.
3. Yerada Lij Long Ago
Emperor Menelik II (Negus Menelik)
Negus Menelik is popular today. Throughout his rule 120 years ago, people respected him. Having chosen his advisors well, he listened to them. At the Battle of Adwa 1896, Negus Menelik accompanied his troops into battle. When they won, he did not make a big thing of victory: There were no winners in war. To read about ‘Adwa 1896’, click here.
Prior to Adwa 1896, Australia had a drought and depression in its east. Negus Menelik sent them 2 shipments of wheat; also, livestock, riches, herbs and trees. Behind this monastery, on a hillside south of Addis Ababa, he prepared the wheat. It was harvested further south in the fertile Rift Valley. He used a technique of lightly boiling then roasting the grain, to preserve it for the 16,000-kilometre sea voyage to Australia.
The Dining Hall of Negus Menelik
At Entoto, in the mountains outside Addis Ababa, Negus Menelik built an aderash, a hall. This was near the Raguel & Elias monastery, an Orit Yehuda religious institution. Today, it helps more than a thousand people with mental illness: mostly a legacy of human rights abuse prior to 2018. Raguel & Elias also assists those who have lost jobs due to Ethiopia’s lost exports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The year in which the aderash was built is not recorded. However, inscribed on the wall is YE MENELIK MASONRY HALL. Menelik built it himself. A site guide there today was married to a woman whose great-grandfather was a guard for Negus Menelik. This was from approximately 148 years ago. When Menelik built the hall, probably around 1872, he was only 15.
Each Saturday, Sunday and Thursday, Negus Menelik invited people to lunch and dinner there. Weekly, this added up to between 2000 and 3000 invitees. Most were manual labourers: hard workers. The aderash kitchen was busy 7 days per week: Menelik’s employees took dinner by horse to elderly people. They lived as far as 50 kilometres away. It was free takeaway.
Around the Elias enclave, Negus Menelik protected the environment. He forbade cutting down trees. If anybody did this, he would go before him at court. Menelik II would not imprison the offender. In accordance with regulations, he would make them work ‘under civilian’. They would have to plant 100 trees and work in land care until the saplings had reached the height of an adult. This could take between 2 and 5 years. Hardwood trees would be slower growing.
Negus Menelik told offenders, ‘You are not only felling trees. You are demolishing the home of isist ‘colour-changing lizards’ – those live to be 100. You are also destroying the habitat of caterpillars, frogs, butterflies and birds.’ The lizard would be the basis for the body design of the US F17 fighter jet. Built in the 1970s, it travelled at 5 times the speed of sound. The aircraft could make itself free from attack by air-defence systems: It was able to change its colour from that of clouds to clear, blue sky. Surface-to-air missiles could not reach it.
During the fascist occupation of 1935-41, two Italian garrisons were stationed beside the dining hall. Troops used it. Close by was a tunnel and cave where Ethiopian patriots hid people. They also produced traditional medicine there. Thick undergrowth obscured the narrow paths leading down to the cave. Patriots sheltered right under the noses of Mussolini’s soldiers.
Building a dining hall when he was only 15 was an achievement. How about building a bridge at 9 years of age? Negus Menelik also built the nearby white monastery of Raguel & Elias, and Entoto Mariyam monastery.
One important reform related to the Christian Orthodox church requirement of 40 days of mourning. The bereaved had to stay home and receive visitors, supplying food; also, talla and tej – homebrew and honey wine. Imagine providing such fare for 6 weeks with no earnings.
Because of the ruination that this caused families, Negus Menelik said, ‘Three days only for mourning.’ Then he lost his little granddaughter. The Christians said, ‘We will see if he follows this new rule.’ Negus Menelik attended her funeral and returned to work that afternoon. From then on, Ethiopians mourned for 3 days.
© Mesfin Tadesse, 2020
- First mentions in Lucy’s People: Negus Menelik: Chapter 5; yerada lij: Chapter 8; blue taxi drivers: Chapter 10
- Click here, to read about the heroic Ethiopian patriot Belay Zeleq – another long-ago yerada lij.
- Featured image: Emperor Menelik II Statue, Addis Ababa © Mesfin Tadesse, 2004
- Photos: Emperor Menelik II Hat at Andinet Park © Mesfin Tadesse, 2020; Flying Over Ethiopia © Mesfin Tadesse, 2017; Blue Taxi of Addis Ababa © Ianet Bastyan, 2020; Menagesha Mariyam Monastery © Mesfin Tadesse, 2020; Raguel Monastery © Mesfin Tadesse, 2020